Colder weather signals the approach of winter and the holidays, which are often accompanied by additional stress and stimulation. Now is an excellent time to take charge of self-care and either begin, continue, or increase self-care strategies.
Most of us seek comfort when faced with stress and anxiety. Self-comforting is the ability to soothe oneself in the face of a stressful situation. A variety of brief, effective techniques is readily available in this endeavor.
Deep Breathing - At the top of the list is taking a deep breath. Research shows breathing techniques with the exhalation extending longer than the inhalation have an especially calming effect. The extended exhalation breath secretes a neurotransmitter that engages in the parasympathetic system. With this event, the rest and digest response comes into play, subduing the urge to fight or flight. When the parasympathetic system is engaged, the brain produces more valid cognition.
Positive Self-Talk - Creating a positive internal narrative increases positive feelings. When coping with anxiety and different strong emotions, it can be helpful to remind ourselves, emotions, and situations are transient.
Be An Observer -When we step outside ourselves and observe our thoughts and emotions; we show ourselves we are more significant than them. It helps us to realize we are not an intense feeling.
Practice Self Compassion - Taking a warm and loving attitude towards ourselves when we are scared, angry, or sad. A practical exercise in self-compassion is to place a hand over the heart and apply gentle pressure, taking a deep breath as a way to offer self-comfort.
Exchange a Problematic Self Comfort for a Healthy One - Smoking, overeating, or zoning out in front of a screen are common ways we decompress. However, these habits have evident drawbacks. They work, but a cost to our health or development. Alternatives to these behaviors are occupying the hands with crafts or puzzles, skyping with a friend, or working out.
Practicing self-comforting behaviors can decrease stress and anxiety and increase resilience. Incorporating self-comforting habits into a daily routine makes them automatic and accessible. Having self-comforting responses at the ready allows us to feel empowered to manage and will enable us to rise to challenging circumstances.